Not since Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath has there been a
family saga as powerful as Bucking the Sun, nor a family as compellingly
strife-torn as the one at its center. Driven by drought from their Montana farm
to “relief work” building the Fort Peck Dam, the Duff family spans the extremes
of the times, from the eldest son Owen, who has made his way through college to
an engineer’s job on the dam, to young Bruce, his antithesis, a risk-taker who
works as a diver setting pilings into the treacherous river bottom. In between
are Neil, the quiet one, and the brothers’ iron-willed wives. When a couple of
wild cards are introduced in the form of a Red Uncle from Scotland and the
prostitute he takes up with, the plot gets as thick and turbulent as the muddy
Bucking the Sun is a startling story
of mixed fortunes that races from moment to moment, an epic rendering of time
and place that reminds us why Ivan Doig is our foremost living storyteller of
the American West.
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